News / USA

Americans in Their 20's Struggle to Get Health Insurance

Michele Gomez is a 23-year-old single mother with no health insurance
Michele Gomez is a 23-year-old single mother with no health insurance
Deborah Block

Democrats in the US Congress are racing to pass health care reform legislation.  Currently, people in their 20s are the largest group in the United States without health insurance. With skyrocketing health care costs, those with low incomes often cannot afford insurance.  Under the legislation, some 30 million uninsured will be able to buy insurance, and some will get government subsidies for it. And that could make health care more affordable.

Michele Gomez is a 23-year-old single mother with no health insurance.  She has a cold and came for medication to the Free Clinic in Arlington, Virginia outside Washington.  Gomez also is having a blood test because she has a heart condition.  

She says because of it, she can only work part-time and she doesn't make enough money to pay for health insurance.

"I need medicine, and sometimes I get heart pains and I have to think about it twice before I go to the hospital because I don't have insurance," said Michele Gomez. "I normally get a big bill and I don't have a way to pay for it."

Nearly half of young adults work part-time and so they are less likely to be offered health insurance at their jobs.  

The U.S. government estimates that 30 percent of young adults are without health coverage, compared with 17 percent of older adults.

Gomez says she is in favor of health insurance reform.  But she says if she is required to pay for even a small part of her insurance, she can't do it.

"I think they should have done this a long time ago," she said. "It's ridiculous how you can't get insurance, especially if you are a U.S. citizen.  I think that should be one of the major priorities is to get insurance for people, especially if they have a low income."

Health officials say it's important to insure young adults even if they have few health problems.  Nancy Pallesen, head of the Arlington Free Clinic, says their issues can become chronic.

"It's very important for these people to have health care, regular health care, and to have preventative kinds of health care because in the future this will save them a lot of anguish," said Nancy Pallesen.

Currently, most insurance plans allow parents to claim their children as dependents until they are 22-years-old. Under the new legislation, young adults will be able to remain on their families' policies until the age of 26.

Ronald Perry works in a grocery store and says health insurance is too expensive for him.   He thinks it should be optional.

"Everybody can make their own decisions and if you choose to have health care you shouldn't be forced to do it at 26 or 30," said Ronald Perry. "If you want it at 45 or 50 you should be able to get it then."

Young adults are more likely to work in small businesses that don't offer health care plans.

Isidro Duran is one of them.  He came to the U.S. from Honduras 10 years ago and works in a small restaurant in Washington.  He says he would like affordable health insurance.

"I am nervous and I am very concerned about it because you never know when you will need it," said Isidro Duran.

Kimlinn Pham, from Vietnam, is a manicurist in a hair salon in Virginia. She hopes health care reform will allow her to buy reasonably priced health insurance.  Pham says even when she's sick she avoids going to the doctor.

"The doctor and hospital are so expensive," said Kimlinn Pham. "I know that they treat you very well.  But later on when you get the bill, you are the one to suffer from the bill.  The doctor won't suffer from that."

Even with new legislation,  the changes in health insurance won't begin for several years.  By that time, some people in their 20s could already be burdened with medical debt and chronic illness.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs